NASA/JPL/Malin Space Science Systems
The martian atmosphere is an artist. It uses narrow vortices of spinning air to disrupt thin coatings of dust on the surface. In some regions, over time, hundreds of dust devils may streak across the landscape, creating patterns like the one shown in this Mars Global Surveyor (MGS) Mars Orbiter Camera (MOC) image. The picture, acquired in February 2004, is located near 64.1°S, 297.3°W, and covers an area about 3 km (1.9 mi) across. Sunlight illuminates the scene from the upper left.
Malin Space Science Systems and the California Institute of Technology built the MOC using spare hardware from the Mars Observer mission. MSSS operates the camera from its facilities in San Diego, California. The Jet Propulsion Laboratory's Mars Surveyor Operations Project operates the Mars Global Surveyor spacecraft with its industrial partner, Lockheed Martin Astronautics, from facilities in Pasadena, California and Denver, Colorado.